Body Scanning with University of Manchester and Phase Eight

It’s not often I get to refer to the organisation I work for. For those of you who don’t know, I work at the University of Manchester, at the National Graphene Institute. As my work is related to cutting edge research, this means that I often can’t talk about it. And the stuff I can talk about is usually all over the papers because it’s graphene, and lots of people are fascinated about it. 

Away from that, I’ve worked here for nearly 19 years (yes I know, I’m not old enough really am I?). I’ve worked in areas such as community care research, medicine (both teaching and research), and computer science. Despite my lack of degree, and that I only work in administration, I’m still fascinated by some of the projects we do, and there are often times that as a member of staff, you can get involved. No really, you can be a bit of a guinea pig. From psychiatry, through to the projects from Eurolens, you can have an input into scientific studies. 

So when an email went round about a collaboration between the University and Studio 8 from Phase Eight, my curiosity was piqued. It’s research into the fit of plus size clothing, and whether you’re plus size or not, I’m pretty sure most of us have had issues with sizing. 

This study was asking for volunteers, plus size ladies who were happy to go through a body scanning process. In exchange you’d get all the measurements of your body that you could ever need (and more), and as it turned out (they didn’t put this on the internal email!) a voucher for clothes from Studio 8.

Even without the voucher I was in. Anything that might offer more diversity in clothing. Sizes from brand to brand vary. Some are tailored for a particular body type, which often, simply isn’t mine. I’m currently around a size 18/20 and yet I own clothes in a size 12 all the way to a size 24. Let’s be honest, sizing now is barely a guide. 

I booked on, and yesterday headed to the other side of campus, to the beautiful building that is on Sackville Street. From the outside, it’s simply a bit slightly ornate brick building, with Sackville Street Gardens on one side, and the Vimto Gardens artwork on the other. Inside it’s stained glass, ornate tiling, wood work, and stone.  Just inside the main door looks like this:



The photo just doesn’t do it justice. 

But back to the body scanning. Before the scan, there was a consent form to fill in, confirming date of birth and age etc. Then the first set of measurements, which were manual. Height (short), head size (big), and hand size – both looking at the narrowest measurement (imagine putting your hand through a sleeve) and the length. 

On to the science bit!

The body scanning process is very simple. You step behind a curtain and strip to your underwear. Then you stand in a frame, feet on marks on the floor. The frame has handles, you pick these up and hold them. Stand holding them and within a matter of seconds, it’s done. (You can watch a video here of the whole scanning process – the magic bit is about 3.30 minutes in). 


What do you get out of it? Every measurement you could have ever wanted. Neck, thigh, calf, arms, the works. I even got some comparison numbers too. The ratio of my torso to my legs confirms what I’ve always known, that compared to average, I have a long body, and short legs. This means often trousers aren’t deep enough in the torso and too long in the leg, whilst tops are often too short. I have a longer waist than average. It also confirmed that I’m right hand dominant (my right arm is thicker than my left), but that I’m left leg dominant (my left calf is thicker than my right). 

So, what will happen to the data? Throughout the day, ladies of all shapes and sizes stopped by for scanning. The hope is that all these numbers will help influence clothing design going forward. A few years ago, something similar was done across the whole spectrum of sizes in the UK (sadly the data was lost in a dispute between the organisation doing the research and the technical company involved). Perhaps this will provide stimulus for companies to revisit it – after all, a lot of the measurements that are still used by companies date back to the 1950s. It’s time for a rethink surely?

The best bit? Anyone can be scanned. Ordering a suit? Sorted. Measuring body composition progress? Yup. Just curious? Not a problem. You can find regular dates for free scans here, or you use the contact form to go direct to the team behind it. 

As for me, I might head back in 12 months or so for a comparison. See how my powerlifting has changed my body over time. Plus you know, I’ve got a voucher to spend, and all the measurements I need to choose something that will fit! 

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